Getting into work in 21st century Britain: A young woman’s story

28 September 2016 -


As part of CMI’s Age of Uncertainty campaign they spoke to young people to find out their views on work. Here, Louise Coles has her say on the challenges (and opportunities) facing young people looking for work

Louise Coles

I’m Louise and I have just finished studying at Sixth Form in the North East of England. I was so glad to be asked to give my views in CMI’s Age of Uncertainty report and to reflect on my own experiences of work.

It’s really important that young people’s views are heard and that we can be honest about what experiences we are having when it comes to getting work and careers.

This includes all of the things that can influence us – where we live, who we know, what we learn – and how this makes us feel about our futures.

So when I heard that CMI and the EY Foundation were going to give 1,500 young people a voice on what to us are massive issues I was really pleased – at last these issues are being addressed.

The report reflects what I have found at my school – they often prioritised going to university. We had lots of assemblies that were always about university, but we didn’t have any on apprenticeships or work experience opportunities.

So it’s not surprising to hear that the majority of young people say that their school provides information about going to university, while under half say they get updates on apprenticeships.

The report also shows that getting good work experience is not always about what you know, it’s about who you know, which is not that surprising.

But what is surprising is that so many people get work experience through their school.

For me, at school, work experience was secondary to getting good grades – I was always told that you won’t get a job if you don’t get the grades.

After Sixth Form I was planning on going to university – that is what was expected of me. Then my grandparents talked to me about how university isn’t like what it was 40 years ago – I realised it doesn’t set you apart anymore.

So I decided to do an apprenticeship, although I’ve secured an unconditional offer at university just in case!

What I realise is that it is important to have a range of options available and that there is not just one route into a career. The way I found out about what it’s like to go to work and the range of career options out there was through the EY Foundation’s Smart Futures programme.

The EY Foundation provides the right information to young people like me, so that we can make the right choices about the future. More needs to be done for young people, especially from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

It is really hard to get good-quality work experience when you don’t have the connections, and even harder if you don’t know the options available to you.

I believe that we need to remove these barriers for all young people. We need the right information to make the right choices, more opportunities for paid work experience and the chance to learn about different career pathways.

And we need to remove the stigma over apprenticeships – they should be recognised as equal to a degree.

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